by Craig Lepkowski, PCI #1180-B/EMSCI #272-B
Lake Forest (IL) Police Department
Many organizations and departments do not seem to fully comprehend the multiple benefits of the IPMBA Security Cyclist (SC) Course. People seem to focus on the Police Cyclist (PC) Course and may be under the impression that cycling skills are geared for law enforcement personnel only. This cannot be farther from the truth. Many of the skills taught by IPMBA focus on slow riding confidence, contact with the public, riding in traffic, and presenting a professional appearance and countenance on the bicycle. While the PC Course does include sections on subject control and firearms that are geared to sworn officers, the majority of the course is about gaining confidence on the bike.
The success of cycling in the law enforcement realm translates readily to many categories of non-sworn patrol personnel. Security cycling can play a role in traffic control, event management, code enforcement, animal control, downtown ambassadors, private security (mall, airport, warehouse, corporate campuses, campgrounds, gated communities, colleges and universities), volunteers, and Police Explorers.
Security cyclists can be deployed in different arenas and for different responsibilities, and are often many times more efficient, cost effective, and visible than personnel in motor vehicles or on foot. A security cyclist is simply a professionally trained person on a bicycle without the law enforcement right to arrest. The bicycle allows such personnel to patrol a larger area of responsibility more effectively than a motor vehicle, and more efficiently than a person on foot. Besides the initial cost differences in purchasing and maintaining bicycles as opposed to vehicles, there are a multitude of uses and positives in having security cyclists.
The ability to sit high and not behind closed windows allows a cyclist to see and hear more while on patrol. The bicycle is adept at weaving in and out of narrow spaces, crowded areas, and stopped traffic. The cyclist can use his or her vantage point to look into vehicles as they ride through parking lots or alongside stopped traffic in entry or exit drives. In public-friendly areas, the bicyclist is more approachable and less intimidating than an officer in a patrol vehicle and is able to slow to observe pedestrian traffic and subjects that seem out of place.
Security bicycles are much more maneuverable than motor vehicles and can be used in crowded and/or large outdoor spaces, parking lots and garages, and inside large buildings or warehouses, to name a few. Security cyclists can use their stealth to close in on suspects and observe them, oftentimes without being discovered until the last minute. Some conditions may require riders to dismount and walk their bicycles through an area due to an insurmountable obstacle, a dense crowd of people, or a hazard; however, the cyclist can keep the bicycle and equipment at hand while walking before re-mounting and riding again – something a driver cannot do with a car.
There are some concerns associated with using bicycles for security. At times, the lack of recognition as a safety or security official reduces the effectiveness of a cycle-borne security unit. This can be overcome with clearly designated and recognizable uniforms, markings, and lights on the riders and the bicycles. There is a limit to the amount of equipment a cyclist can carry on a bicycle; however, most security details can carry more than enough of what they need to complete their tasks, and bicycle bags are able to carry more gear than a person on foot. Limitations can be overcome by supplementing a bicycle unit with a squad car delivering any larger equipment, like traffic cones or barricades. Finally, bicycle units are sometimes negatively impacted by weather, although there are a multitude of options for winter wear and rain gear enabling a cyclist to be effective year-round.
Overall, the positives of a security cyclist unit greatly outweigh any negatives. The many uses and benefits of a professionally trained cyclist truly are limited only by the imagination of the organization. If there is an interest in a career in law enforcement, anyone who successfully completes the IPMBA Security Cyclist Course also has a leg up on other police applicants. Of course, learning new skills and gaining confidence on a bicycle can play a definite part in one’s personal life as well, especially if riding with family members is important.
Hopefully, readers, you have been encouraged to register for and take the Security Cyclist Course from IPMBA, either locally or at the national conference. See you June 5-10, 2017, in Delaware, Ohio!
Craig has enjoyed riding at his department for many years and was honored to assist with the development of the department’s bike unit. Impressed with the IPMBA Course he attended in 2009, he attended the Instructor Course in 2010 and has enjoyed teaching bike skills ever since. Never one to say “no”, Craig was elected to the IPMBA Board in 2013 and is currently serving as Secretary. He looks forward to helping maintain IPMBA’s position as the top-notch provider of public safety bicycling instruction. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2017 IPMBA. This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of IPMBA News. Photo courtesy San Antonio Police Department Explorer Post.